Friday, November 2, 2012

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Steven Leacock

This Canadian classic (which just celebrated its 100th anniversary) has been on my TBR list for years. But I never got around to “reading” Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town until I downloaded it from LibriVox.  Each of the twelve chapters describes a person or event in the mythical town of Mariposa in the early 1900’s. Leacock pokes fun at small town ways, but he seems to do it without any malice.  Much of the humor is understated and since the majority of the narrators read with deadpan voices, I almost missed some of it.  I kept thinking that if a man like Garrison Keillor got hold of this material, it could be laugh out loud funny.

Many of the characters in the stories have an exaggerated sense of importance. Others, like Reverend Drone and Peter Pupkin have an overwrought sense of worthlessness. Pupkin, the bank teller, is afraid he is unworthy of Zena Pepperleigh, the judge’s daughter.  Except for the fact that suicide is no joking matter, the chapter on Pupkin’s attempts to do away with himself so that Zena will notice him is quite funny.

This is an easy, yet slow read (Lately, all books seem slow after the Hunger Games), but it might be worth a listen if you’re cooking or sewing and want a good story in the background.

Sample from Chapter One: 

Of course if you come to the place fresh from New York, you are deceived. Your standard of vision is all astray; you think the place is quiet. You do imagine that Mr. Smith is asleep merely because he closes his eyes as he stands. But live in Mariposa for six months or a year and then you will begin to understand it better; the buildings get higher and higher; the Mariposa House grows more and more luxurious; McCarthy's block towers to the sky; the buses roar and hum to the station; the trains shriek; the traffic multiplies; the people move faster and faster; a dense crowd swirls to and fro in the post office and the five and ten cent store -- and amusements! well, now! lacrosse, baseball, excursions, dances, the Fireman's Ball every winter and the Catholic picnic every summer; and music -- the town band in the park every Wednesday evening, and the Oddfellows' brass band on the street every other Friday; the Mariposa Quartette, the Salvation Army -- why, after a few months' residence you begin to realize that the place is a mere mad round of gaiety.

Also available free for Kindle.

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